In his homily at Mass with the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) on Thursday, Pope Francis reflected on "three words that challenge us as Christians and Bishops in Europe: reflect, rebuild and see.", writes Francesca Merlo in Vatican News.
Bishops from across Europe, including Archbishop Leo Cushley, are in Rome to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the CCEE with a plenary conference on 23-26 September.
God, speaking through the Old Testament prophet Haggai, invites us to reflect on how we live our lives, said the Pope: Twice the prophet says to the people: “Reflect on your ways!” ( Hag 1:5.7).
The Pope noted that those words, 'Reflect on your ways!', are challenging because in Europe today, "we Christians can be tempted to remain comfortably ensconced in our structures, our homes and our churches, in the security provided by our traditions, content with a certain degree of consensus, while all around us churches are emptying and Jesus is increasingly forgotten".
He asked the bishops and all those present to consider "how many people no longer hunger and thirst for God."
This is not because they are evil, he continued, but because there is "no one to awaken in them a hunger for faith and to satisfy that thirst in the human heart". Certainly, we are “preoccupied” by this, but are we really “occupied” with responding to it? asked the Pope.
There is no sense in judging those who do not believe, said the Pope. "Do we feel concern and compassion for those who have not had the joy of encountering Jesus or who have lost that joy?"
Through the prophet Haggai, the Lord asks his people to reflect on another thing, said the Pope, and this is charity. "Lack of charity causes unhappiness, because love alone satisfies the human heart," said the Pope. "The solution to problems and self-absorption is always that of gratuitous gift. There is no other. This is something to reflect on."
“Build my house”, God says through the prophet (Hag 1:8), and the people rebuild the Temple, said the Pope, introducing the second word: rebuilding.
In order to build the European common house, we must "leave behind short-term expedience and return to the farsighted vision of the founding fathers, a prophetic vision of the whole", he said.
We must begin from the foundations, because that is where rebuilding starts: from the Church’s living tradition, which is based on "what is essential, the Good News, closeness and witness. We need to rebuild from her foundations the Church of every time and place, from worship of God and love of neighbour, and not from our own tastes."
"All rebuilding takes place together, in unity, with others," said the Pope. Rebuilding means becoming artisans of communion, weavers of unity at every level.
"If we rebuild in this way, we will enable our brothers and sisters to see," said the Pope. This is the third word: See.
"So many people in Europe see the faith as déja vu, a relic of the past," said the Pope. This is because they have not seen Jesus at work in their own lives, he explained. Often this is because we, by our lives, have not sufficiently shown Him to them.
"They will not recognize the One who loves each of His sheep, calls them by name, and bears them on His shoulders. They will not see the One whose incredible passion we preach: for it is a consuming passion, a passion for mankind," said the Pope.
This divine, merciful and overpowering love, concluded the Pope "is itself the perennial newness of the Gospel and it demands of us, dear brothers, wise and bold decisions, made in the name of the mad love with which Christ has saved us."
Pope 'supportive' of plans to relocate Scots College
Plans to relocate the Pontifical Scots College in Rome have been backed by Pope Francis.
Archbishop Leo Cushley met with the Holy Father at the Vatican on Saturday to discuss the proposed move.
He said: “Pope Francis expressed his full support for the intentions of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland to move the college into Rome city centre.
“I was delighted to hear that and I know my fellow bishops will be too.”
Archbishop Cushley updates Pope Francis on plans for the Scots College.
The decision to relocate the seminary, where young men in Scotland train for the priesthood, was announced in December after building upgrades were deemed too costly.
The college is currently on Via Cassia, around 10km from the city centre. The Bishops aim to sell the building and believe a more central location is the best option for the formation needs of the community and for future provision.
Archbishop Cushley added: “Saying goodbye, the Pope asked for our prayers, which I was happy to promise him on behalf of Scotland’s Catholics.
Pope Francis' message for World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly
Catholics are encouraged to visit loved ones on Sunday as part of the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.
Parishes are also invited to celebrate the role and contribution of older people in our communities and help deliver the message of Pope Francis to them.
Archbishop Cushley said: "For this first-ever World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly on Sunday, please consider making a visit to an elderly relative or neighbour, if safe to do so, to share the Holy Father’s message with them.
We pray for the elderly but also ask for their prayers; as Pope Francis tells them, 'Your prayer is a very precious resource: a deep breath that the Church and the world urgently need'.”
Pope Francis reads the message in the below video.
A visit to an older person living alone is one of the ways of obtaining a Plenary Indulgence granted on the occasion of this World Day.
In order for the message of closeness and consolation to reach everyone on this World Day we ask people to visit their grandparents and the elderly living alone in their community and to give them the Holy Father’s message.
A visit is a tangible sign of a Church of outreach. At a time of social distancing because of the pandemic, a visit shows that there is a way of being close to older people while still observing safety measures.
A visit is a personal choice to arise and go in haste to others (cf. Lk 1:39), just as Mary did when she visited her elderly cousin Elizabeth.
A visit is an opportunity for a grandchild to say to his or her grandparent and for a young person to say to an elderly person they are visiting, “I am with you always”.
A visit can be an opportunity to bring a gift, such as a flower, and to read the World Day prayer together.
In places where health emergency measures still make it impossible to visit in person, love can use imagination to find ways of reaching lonely elderly people by phone or social media.
The World Day message can be shared by posting pictures of visits on social media with the hashtag #IamWithYouAlways.
“I am with you always” (Mt 28:20): this is the promise the Lord made to his disciples before he ascended into heaven. They are the words that he repeats to you today, dear grandfathers and grandmothers, dear elderly friends. “I am with you always” are also the words that I, as Bishop of Rome and an elderly person like yourselves, would like to address to you on this first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. The whole Church is close to you – to us – and cares about you, loves you and does not want to leave you alone!
I am well aware that this Message comes to you at a difficult time: the pandemic swept down on us like an unexpected and furious storm; it has been a time of trial for everyone, but especially for us elderly persons. Many of us fell ill, others died or experienced the death of spouses or loved ones, while others found themselves isolated and alone for long periods.
The Lord is aware of all that we have been through in this time. He is close to those who felt isolated and alone, feelings that became more acute during the pandemic. Tradition has it that Saint Joachim, the grandfather of Jesus, felt estranged from those around him because he had no children; his life, like that of his wife Anne, was considered useless. So the Lord sent an angel to console him. While he mused sadly outside the city gates, a messenger from the Lord appeared to him and said, “Joachim, Joachim! The Lord has heard your insistent prayer”. Giotto, in one of his celebrated frescoes, seems to set the scene at night, one of those many sleepless nights, filled with memories, worries and longings to which many of us have come to be accustomed.
Even at the darkest moments, as in these months of pandemic, the Lord continues to send angels to console our loneliness and to remind us: “I am with you always”. He says this to you, and he says it to me. That is the meaning of this Day, which I wanted to celebrate for the first time in this particular year, as a long period of isolation ends and social life slowly resumes. May every grandfather, every grandmother, every older person, especially those among us who are most alone, receive the visit of an angel!
At timeS those angels will have the face of our grandchildren, at others, the face of family members, lifelong friends or those we have come to know during these trying times, when we have learned how important hugs and visits are for each of us. How sad it makes me that in some places these are still not possible!
The Lord, however, also sends us messengers through his words, which are always at hand. Let us try to read a page of the Gospel every day, to pray with the psalms, to read the prophets! We will be comforted by the Lord's faithfulness. The Scriptures will also help us to understand what the Lord is asking of our lives today. For at every hour of the day (cf. Mt 20:1-16) and in every season of life, he continues to send labourers into his vineyard. I was called to become the Bishop of Rome when I had reached, so to speak, retirement age and thought I would not be doing anything new. The Lord is always – always – close to us. He is close to us with new possibilities, new ideas, new consolations, but always close to us. You know that the Lord is eternal; he never, ever goes into retirement
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells the Apostles, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (28:19-20). These words are also addressed to us today. They help us better understand that our vocation is to preserve our roots, to pass on the faith to the young, and to care for the little ones. Think about it: what is our vocation today, at our age? To preserve our roots, to pass on the faith to the young and to care for the little ones. Never forget this.
It makes no difference how old you are, whether you still work or not, whether you are alone or have a family, whether you became a grandmother or grandfather at a young age or later, whether you are still independent or need assistance. Because there is no retirement age from the work of proclaiming the Gospel and handing down traditions to your grandchildren. You just need to set out and undertake something new.
At this crucial moment in history, you have a renewed vocation. You may wonder: How this can be possible? My energy is running out and I don’t think I can do much. How can I begin to act differently when habit is so much a part of my life? How can I devote myself to those who are poor when I am already so concerned about my family? How can I broaden my vision when I can’t even leave the residence where I live? Isn’t my solitude already a sufficiently heavy burden? How many of you are asking just that question: isn’t my solitude already a sufficiently heavy burden?
Jesus himself heard a similar question from Nicodemus, who asked, “How can a man be born when he is old?” (Jn 3:4). It can happen, the Lord replies, if we open our hearts to the working of the Holy Spirit, who blows where he wills. The Holy Spirit whose freedom is such that goes wherever, and does whatever, he wills.
As I have often observed, we will not emerge from the present crisis as we were before, but either better or worse. And “God willing… this may prove not to be just another tragedy of history from which we learned nothing… If only we might keep in mind all those elderly persons who died for lack of respirators... If only this immense sorrow may not prove useless, but enable us to take a step forward towards a new style of life. If only we might discover once for all that we need one another, and that in this way our human frailty can experience a rebirth”). No one is saved alone. We are all indebted to one another. We are all brothers and sisters.
Given this, I want to tell you that you are needed in order to help build, in fraternity and social friendship, the world of tomorrow: the world in which we, together with our children and grandchildren, will live once the storm has subsided. All of us must “take an active part in renewing and supporting our troubled societies”. Among the pillars that support this new edifice, there are three that you, better than anyone else, can help to set up. Those three pillars are dreams, memory and prayer. The Lord’s closeness will grant to all, even the frailest among us, the strength needed to embark on a new journey along the path of dreams, memory and prayer.
The prophet Joel once promised: “Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men will have visions” (3:1). The future of the world depends on this covenant between young and old. Who, if not the young, can take the dreams of the elderly and make them come true? Yet for this to happen, it is necessary that we continue to dream. Our dreams of justice, of peace, of solidarity can make it possible for our young people to have new visions; in this way, together, we can build the future. You need to show that it is possible to emerge renewed from an experience of hardship. I am sure that you have had more than one such experience: in your life you have faced any number of troubles and yet were able to pull through. Use those experiences to learn how to pull through now.
Dreams are thus intertwined with memory. I think of the painful memory of war, and its importance for helping the young to learn the value of peace. Those among you who experienced the suffering of war must pass on this message. Keeping memory alive is a true mission for every elderly person: keeping memory alive and sharing it with others.
Edith Bruck, who survived the horror of the Shoah, has said that “even illuminating a single conscience is worth the effort and pain of keeping alive the memory of what has been.” She went on to say: “For me, memory is life.” I also think of my own grandparents, and those among you who had to emigrate and know how hard it is to leave everything behind, as so many people continue to do today, in hope of a future. Some of those people may even now be at our side, caring for us.
These kinds of memory can help to build a more humane and welcoming world. Without memory, however, we will never be able to build; without a foundation, we can never build a house. Never. And the foundation of life is memory.
Finally, prayer. As my predecessor, Pope Benedict, himself a saintly elderly person who continues to pray and work for the Church, once said: “the prayer of the elderly can protect the world, helping it perhaps more effectively than the frenetic activity of many others.” He spoke those words in 2012, towards the end of his pontificate.
There is something beautiful here. Your prayer is a very precious resource: a deep breath that the Church and the world urgently need. Especially in these difficult times for our human family, as we continue to sail in the same boat across the stormy sea of the pandemic, your intercession for the world and for the Church has great value: it inspires in everyone the serene trust that we will soon come to shore.
Dear grandmother, dear grandfather, dear elderly friends, in concluding this Message to you, I would also like to mention the example of Blessed (and soon Saint) Charles de Foucauld. He lived as a hermit in Algeria and there testified to “his desire to feel himself a brother to all” The story of his life shows how it is possible, even in the solitude of one’ s own desert, to intercede for the poor of the whole world and to become, in truth, a universal brother or sister.
I ask the Lord that, also through his example, all of us may open our hearts in sensitivity to the sufferings of the poor and intercede for their needs. May each of us learn to repeat to all, and especially to the young, the words of consolation we have heard spoken to us today: “I am with you always”! Keep moving forward! May the Lord grant you his blessing.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 31 May 2021, Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Click here to read the Holy Father's message on the Vatican website.
Scotland’s Bishops welcome chance of Pope Francis meeting
Scotland’s Catholic bishops have welcomed the prospect of a meeting with Pope Francis when he attends the COP26 Conference in Glasgow in November.
A spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said: “Scotland’s bishops express their prayerful support for Pope Francis as he recovers from his recent surgery.
"Having written to the Holy Father to assure him of a warm welcome, should he attend the Conference, they are delighted to hear that he does hope to attend and would be glad to meet with them in Glasgow.”
The spokesman added: “The Pope will be in Scotland for a very short time, most of which will be spent participating in the COP26 Conference.
"While many pastoral, ecumenical and interfaith gatherings would be desirable while he is with us, time constraints sadly mean such a full programme will not be possible.”
COP26 is the UN Climate Change Conference. Read 'COP26 Explained' here.
Pope’s prayer intention for July: Social friendship
In his video message for July, Pope Francis focuses on dialogue as the “path to seeing reality in a new way, so we can live with passion the challenges we face in constructing the common good.”
He calls for an end to polarization that divides us, and urges prayers that there be no space for “enmity or war”.
In the month of July, the Holy Father calls on all to become “architects of dialogue and friendship” to solve the conflicts and causes of division that exist in society and among individual people.
Only through dialogue, he says, is it possible to avoid the constant polarization and social enmity that destroy so many relationships.
Excerpt from vaticannews.va. Read the full story here.
WATCH: Pope's prayer intention for May
Pope Francis has released his prayer intention for the month of May 2021, calling for regulators to limit speculation in financial markets and protect ordinary people. Read the full story at Vatican News.
The Prayer intention
"The true economy, the one that creates work, is in crisis. How many people are now unemployed! — But the financial markets have never been as inflated as they are now. How far away is the world of high finance from the lives of ordinary people!
If finance is unregulated, it becomes pure speculation driven by various monetary policies. This situation is unsustainable. And it is dangerous.
So that the poor do not suffer painful consequences from this system, financial speculation must be carefully regulated.
Speculation. I want to underline that term.
May finance be a form of service, and an instrument to serve the people, and to care for our common home!
We still have time to begin a process of global change to practice a different kind of economy, one that is more just, more inclusive and sustainable —and leaves no one behind.
We can do this! And let us pray that those in charge of finance will work with governments to regulate financial markets and protect citizens from its dangers."
Pope Francis on Human Fraternity: All born of the same Father
Pope Francis marked the first-ever International Day of Human Fraternity on Thursday, in a virtual event hosted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi, with the participation of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and other personalities.
During the occasion, the Holy Father, in words prepared for the occasion, expressed his gratitude to those who had contributed to the promotion of fraternity in spite of the challenges.
“Sisters and brothers - that is the word,” the Pope said. “Sisters and brothers to affirm fraternity in a special way to you, my brother, my friend, my companion of challenges and risks in the struggle for fraternity.”
The Pope offered special recognition to the Grand Imam, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, for his testimony and collaboration in writing the document presented two years ago. Pope Francis also expressed his gratitude to the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, for his belief in the project, and Judge Abdel Salam for his active participation in its advancement.
“Thank you all for committing to fraternity,” Pope Francis said, “because today fraternity is the new frontier of humanity. Either we are brothers, or we destroy each other.”
Special projects and events have been highlighted in a new document marking the special anniversary year of Laudato Si'.
On 24 May 2015 Pope Francis signed the watershed encyclical letter that called the world’s attention to the precarious state of "our common home". Five years on the encyclical appears ever more relevant.
The document states: "The fifth anniversary of the encyclical comes in the midst of another watershed moment - a global pandemic - and Laudato Si's message is just as prophetic today as it was in 2015. The encyclical can indeed provide the moral and spiritual compass for the journey to create a more caring, fraternal, peace."
The document contains a list of initiatives for the celebration of the Special Laudato Si’ Anniversary Year. Read it here. Read Laudato Si' here.
On Tuesday 01 September Archbishop Cushley will celebrate Mass at St Columba’s Church in Edinburgh to mark the beginning of the Season of Creation. It will be available to watch on this website as well as on our Facebook and YouTube channel.
World Day of the Poor
Pope Francis recently released his message for the Fourth World Day of the Poor, which takes place on 15 November.
The Pope calls on people to keep their gaze fixed on the poor, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, and warns against succumbing to a “whirlwind of indifference”. Read the letter here.